Marine Corps Announces First Winners of App Competition

A corporal conducts pullups during company physical training  at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Nov. 16, 2016. (Marine Corps photo/Aaron S. Patterson)
A corporal conducts pullups during company physical training at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Nov. 16, 2016. (Marine Corps photo/Aaron S. Patterson)

Need to navigate Okinawa on liberty or plot the location of friendly and enemy units on the battlefield? There's an app for that -- or at least there may be very soon.

The Marine Corps has wrapped up a first-of-its kind competition to create a mobile application that will improve Marines' quality of life, one element of a servicewide push to find ways to make better use of existing technology.

Troops participating in the competition demonstrated their concept apps Nov. 17 and 18 in Quantico, Virginia, and judges evaluated the 10 submissions based on criteria including ease of use, value to Marines, and coding ability, among others, said Col. Kyle Dewar, C4 [Command, Control, Communications and Computers] Enterprise Data Center Technologist for the Marine Corps.

Ultimately, the Corps chose winners in three categories: Warfighting, Quality of Life, and Physical Fitness. The winners were announced Friday at the C5ISR summit in Charleston, South Carolina.

In the warfighting category, the app selected, Blue Order Team, would allow troops to plot the location of various friendly or enemy units on their tablet or mobile device with information including threats, capabilities and resources. It was developed by Capt. Christopher Curry, an intelligence officer assigned to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan.

For quality of life, the winning entry was the Okinawa liberty app, which features quick Japanese-to-English translations for signs and phrases, key on-base contacts, and geo-spatial graphics for off-duty activities in Okinawa. The app was developed by an eight-member team from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, including two military spouses.

And in physical fitness, the winner was an application called Semper PT, which calculates physical fitness test and combat fitness scores, and provides data on fitness, Marine Corps height and weight standards, and other service fitness regulations. It was created by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeffrey Dovan, a distribution management specialist from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in North Carolina.

While many of the app entries came from troops who were familiar with coding and software development, Dewar said he was pleased to see participation from a variety of military occupational specialties, as well as military spouses.

"One of the neatest submissions was from a gunnery sergeant who didn't even know how to code," he said.

The Marine used open-source app-building tools to create a prototype for an application that would compile all "need-to-know" information about being a good Marine in one place, Dewar said.

Dewar said he'd like to see the app competition become an annual event to highlight Marines' coding capabilities.

Meanwhile, the fate of the winning apps is uncertain. The competing apps needed to demonstrate their purpose, but did not need to be complete to participate in the competition, Dewar said.

Now Marine officials will work with the winners to find out what it would take to complete them and, possibly down the road, release them under the Marine Corps logo.

"We're still looking into what is needed to complete their development," Dewar said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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